I GUESS I have been depressed most of my adult life… well, at least since I was 14 years old.
Depression is a condition that impacts on every aspect of life and well-being. It is much more than feeling sad. It is a mood disorder that can interfere with everyday life.
There are six types of depression: major depression, atypical depression, dysthymia, post natal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Depression with mania is known as bipolar disorder or manic depression.
Having untreated depression can put your life on hold for months, if not years. Major depressive disorder can also lead to thoughts of suicide or self harm.
My own depression, which was diagnosed after my nervous breakdown, was sub classified as ‘reactive depression’. In other words, it was not a clinical illness but a reaction to what life had thrown at me.
Psychologists determine that reactive depression is “triggered by a traumatic, difficult or stressful event, and people affected will feel low, anxious, irritable, and even angry. Reactive depression can also follow prolonged period of stress and can begin even after the stress is over.”
Dr Jourdan Rombaugh describes it: http://mental.healthguru.com/article/reactive-depression
My depression had always been there inside me as a reaction to many things: the sex abuse I suffered as a young teenager, a major life crisis in my late 20s, battling cancer in my early 30s, relationship breakdowns, the loss of two of my children, bankruptcy, assault, the loss of my home and the deaths of my soul-mate Andrea and my amazing father.
Any of these things could have triggered the condition and for me they did as a matter of course.
The depression manifested itself in the more obvious feelings of deep lows or worthlessness – especially in a relationship or at work – but also in many other less obvious ways such as anger and irritability, frustration, OCD behavior, selective hearing, tiredness, insomnia, over-eating, forgetfulness, clumsiness and inability to concentrate on one thing for long periods. In my case, it was all of these, plus for many years, an over-dependence on alcohol.
Some close friends and family questioned whether I might be bipolar; after all I displayed some of the signs. But the short answer to that is no, I am not and never have been.
You see, I learned from an early age to put on a mask of happiness, and even stupidity, to hide the pain inside to allow myself to function normally. Or as Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson once wrote:
Now if there’s a smile on my face
It’s only they’re trying to fool the public…
But don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Really I’m sad, oh sadder than sad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad
Now there’s some sad things known to man
But ain’t too much sadder than the tears of a clown
When there’s no one around.
I used to listen to that song regularly when I was young, but it has only been in recent months it has taken on a personal significance and plays regularly on my car stereo.
But, there is a limit to how long you can lock things inside while smiling on the outside. As I wrote in an earlier blog posting When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain? my jaunty exterior collapsed in a complete nervous breakdown on 12 June this year… a day when I simply could not hold it all in any more.
It is now six months since that collapse. It has been an important period of professional help with daily medication, counselling, the love and support of family and close friends and the catharsis of writing this blog and unburdening my mind, memories and fears.
Last week I wrote here that shortly after my breakdown, I received 18 individual testimonials and references from reporters, photographers and trainees who have worked for me over the years.
Those statements arrived at a critical moment in my life and were in many ways life-saving.
But I failed to mention the many emails, text messages and private Facebook messages I also received from friends, acquaintances and colleagues that also helped in the healing process. Some of these messages were from friends I have not seen in years, but they had heard of my condition and wanted to send their love and support.
Thank you, because all those messages were amazing and I have kept them all… my Christmas card list is much larger this year!
The process of healing has been long and culminated last week in my decision to leave my career in newspaper journalism behind after 28 years and dedicate the final years of my working life to writing and teaching.
I have now resurrected my old company name Time is an Ocean (thank you Bob!) as a vehicle for my future writing and lecturing. I have created a new logo and had some funky business cards printed.
I am unsure exactly where the future will take me – who does? But it is going to be an adventure and at 57 years old, it is not too old to begin new adventures
I genuinely feel happy, positive and excited about the future for the first time in my adult life.
‘Time is an ocean it ends at the shore’… my own boat has just set sail.
If you feel depressed, talk to someone… be brave and confide, you will be amazed how many other people out there feel similar things and will let you unburden. Also don’t be shy about telling your GP… you may need a little extra help. There is light on the other side of that dark door… just have faith in yourself.
- I dedicate this piece to close friends who know how it is to be depressed and also to Andy who took his own life back in 1978, when he felt no one was listening. I have never forgotten you.